You walk into a room full of people at a business conference, convention or job fair. What’s the first thing you do? Look for the bathroom so you can either throw up or hyperventilate in peace? But to hark once again back to high school it’s like that school dance where you finally work up the courage to go and when you get there you don’t know anybody and you’re all alone and you desperately want to meet someone and maybe even dance but it’s loud and just a huge blur. You’re about to turn and call your mom to come pick you up but that would be even more embarrassing and then who should walk up to you but Wanda Fitzgerald, President of the Physical Science Club, who is always trying to hang out with you and your friends and you think to yourself that it would have been far less embarrassing to call your mother after all than to be seen with Wanda at a dance.
Not so, my friend. For this isn’t exactly high school and you will not be judged by the company you keep – at least not like you were in high school. Before I get to the specific techniques, I think it’s important to talk about developing a mindset before you endeavor to meet new people.
First, it’s not like trying to meet people of the opposite sex for romantic purposes. If you don’t hit it off with someone you meet in this context, you don’t. No big thing. No ego blow. No seven days in your room playing online games and drinking Mountain Dew and popping your zits. Five seconds later you’re over it.
Figure out the odds, do the percentages, do a risk/reward analysis. Let’s go back to the dance. Here’s a risk/reward analysis of asking a girl to dance: If she says yes, on a scale of -10 to 10, 10 being fantastic and -10 being horrible, what would have been the value to you? The true value to your ego might have been a five or six (I’m talking about dancing now, not coitus. That would have been incalculable.) What if she had said “no”. That would have been somewhere in extremely negative territory, maybe even -10, maybe even crushing. What if she had agreed to dance and she just thought you were fantastic and immediately wanted to go outside and make out and her older sister who has her own apartment is away for the weekend and your new friend has the key and you can go over there and be alone! Naaahhhh. That’s never going to happen in real life. So, play the percentages. Would it have been worth it? Probably not.
Now let’s talk about going to a conference or professional meeting. You introduce yourself to someone and they’re nice and you exchange business cards. Same scale. What’s the value? Probably about a +1 but potentially in high-school-dance-coitus-territory. They could turn you on to the job of your life. If not today, maybe five years from now but you never know. What if that person is too busy at that moment to talk. How bad does it hurt? Maybe zero at the very lowest? That’s nothing!
The down-side risk is super-low with meeting people in a professional setting but the upside potential is extremely high. It’s worth it. As any salesperson will tell you, meeting new people is a numbers game. The more you do it, the better your odds.